To buy or not to buy? Perceptions of bottled drinking water in Australia and New Zealand

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21 Citations (Scopus)


In the midst of popular and scientific debates about its desirability, safety and environmental sustainability, bottled water is forecast to become the most consumed packaged beverage globally (Feliciano 2014) and fastest growth sector in Australia (Johnson 2007). Manufacturers attribute increasing sales to convenience and health benefits rather than intensive advertising/marketing campaigns. Our sociological investigation of drinking water perceptions generally, and bottled water specifically, using data from 192 face-to-face interviews with Australians and New Zealanders, revealed 77 % thought about the quality of their drinking water; 64 % noted specific adverse issues, and 82 % reported concerns with their tap water. However, although 64 % drink bottled water, just 28 % believe it is better than tap water and 63 % consider it a waste of money. Only 21 % drink it for ‘convenience’ and consumption patterns vary significantly by gender, with men and younger generations purchasing the most bottled water. Qualitative analysis refutes stereotypes associating bottled water with a status symbol or lifestyle choice; participants largely mistrust water companies; just 13 % describe bottled water as a ‘trusted’ product, even when consumed for its taste or convenience, and 13 % label it a ‘bad’ plastic product detrimental to the environment or public health, thus lending support for institutional and policy trends banning bottled water.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-576
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


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